Redfish, oysters and old guys

Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum

What could possibly go wrong when six old guys go on an unsupervised, no wives included, fly-fishing road trip? Absolutely nothing, yeah right. The group, having read my last column, thought it would be a good idea to take a three-day fly-fishing trip to Rockport, Texas. The collective age of our bladders, about 400 years, plus everyone needing to be in charge of the direction we would drive, would have us still on a highway. So, we made it an air trip to fly fish for redfish.

Rockport is an old village that is now part of the Fulton Beach, Aransas Pass, Corpus Christi Metro area. Back in the 50’s and 60’s, Rockport was primarily inhabited by hardcore bait fishermen, duck hunters, and retirees. I know this because my grandparents retired there. It was great fun to visit them. This area has now expanded to include bird watchers, (we saw whopping cranes) celebrities, art galleries, fly fishermen, and lots of good restaurants.

While people have been able to wade the shallow flats along the beaches for a long time, I believe the advent of the modern flats boat, and fly-fishing guides to pole them, has been a driving force behind the fly-fishing-for-reds industry. I caught my first redfish, ever, some 15 years ago in Rockport, from a flats boat.

The Rockport area, similar to any town on the Gulf Coast, can have unpredictable winter weather. Therefore, like us, plan a multi-day trip. Our first day in the area was spent drinking coffee until the no-go decision was made by our guides. We had high winds, rain, and cold temperatures. After the “abort a fishing day” call was made we spent the day touring the area, sampling the restaurants, smoking cigars, and planning the next day’s fishing. The second day dawned bright and sunny, warm, and no wind.

The fun began at 8:30 a.m. We had three boats head out in different directions with all three boats reporting reds caught by 9 a.m. In fact, the most senior of the group, who had never been red fishing before, caught a red on his first cast. My guide told me not to cast at the small fish, around 5 pounds, because it would spook the bigger fish, around 15 pounds. The entire day was like that for all three boats. With a clear day and very little wind, the clarity of the water was really good. Having clear water meant we were sight casting, not blind casting.

The weather for the third day of fishing was colder, windy, and cloudy. However, my guide was able to put my fishing partner and me on fish. While a lot of the casting was blind casting, the guide knew where the fish were and where to have us cast. She even managed to put us on some fish tailing in the shallows.

For equipment an 8-weight rod worked really well in the light wind. For the third day, with the wind, a 9-weight would have given me a little extra punch. Our reels were loaded with floating lines and 200 yards of backing. A 15-pound red will take you well into your backing. Leaders were tapered, 9-feet, 25-pound test. Attached to the end of my leader was a size 12 white streamer. I also had the reds hit a small red and white popper.

Old men do not live only on fly-fishing. Part of the trip was dedicated to locating the best seafood restaurants we could find. In our quest we found a restaurant that served shrimp piled on paper towels in front of each person. They were so juicy we had bibs (getting ready for the nursing home) instead of napkins. Another restaurant had gumbo that was a little spicy and full of unidentifiable ingredients, true gumbo. The jackpot came at a restaurant that had raw oysters for $4.50 a dozen. The sound of six old guys slurping nine dozen oysters washed down with several bottles of white wine was scary but delightful.

If you’re looking for a laid back, easy to-get-to place to fly fish for reds, and have lots of good seafood, give the Rockport area a try.

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